Decolonisation (1957-1966)/ Masjid Negara – Symbol of National Religion and Identity

Masjid Negara under construction © 1965, Ronald Pratt
Masjid Negara © 2014, BigTree Travel & Tours Malaysia

Like most of the national projects built after Malaysia declared independence, Masjid Negara bears the name Negara or Merdeka, which mean Country and Independence respectively. Before the construction of Masjid Negara (National Mosque), there were already a few mosques in Kuala Lumpur. For instance, the Friday Mosque (Masjid Jamek) was built in the early city center by the British. The Friday Mosque is a typical Moorish, Indo-Saracenic or Mughal style mosque of domes.

To establish the identity of the newly independent country, the new national mosque was planned and designed in a way to be purely Malaysian. The design committee consisted of Malaysian architects like Baharuddin bin Abu Kassim. The concept of Baharuddin’s design came from a traditional Malay house with a series of double-pitched roofs interlocked, which was completely different from the design approaches of other mosques in Kuala Lumpur. The main structure was a modernist “concrete box” and the ceiling as a pyramid. It also responded to climatic and cultural aspect. The extraction of a Malaysian form instead of foreign domical forms reflected the determination of the architects and government to build up the Malay identity as well as the symbol of the state religion Islam. Masjid Negara can be described as a Malaysian Mosque designed by Malaysians – a mosque only for the nation.

Masjid Negara Interior Perspective © 1965, Baharuddin bin Abu Kassim and Lee Hong Kwan


Chee Kien, Lai. Building Merdeka: Independence Architecture in Kuala Lumpur, 1957-1966. Kuala Lumpur: Petronas, 2007.

LLC Books. Mosques in Malaysia: Masjid Negara, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque, Crystal Mosque, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque. Memphis: General Books LLC, 2010.

3 Comments on “Decolonisation (1957-1966)/ Masjid Negara – Symbol of National Religion and Identity

  1. I agree with the prominence of a National Mosque as a symbol of state religion because it is the main space for the prayers and religious ceremony. Other than infrastructure projects, political and social agendas are also important to build up the sense of national identity and belonging. Did the national mosque have other roles in the decolonization process? Are there any examples of how the National Mosque help to promote the state religion? What were the perspectives of the Malay people at that time?

  2. Indeed by building a new, symbolic architecture could certainly help to build a national identity and I think the National Mosque has certainly show one of the characters of Malaysia. But other than building up an national identity what are the others impact of it? Does it affect the town planning of Malaysia? As a landmark and signature of Malaysia, is it located at the centre of the town and having some connection with other mosque? How does this architecture influence the daily life of local? And most importantly, does it give a sense of belonging to the nation which is the fundamental element of building a nation.

  3. The new building shows national characteristics by just the form of the roof? I think architecture does much more than solely its form. Architecture affects people daily life in every aspect like how people move around that area and this relates to the overall urban planning of the government. I’m curious whether this architecture help boost national identity besides the form of the roof? How would u evaluate the effectiveness of this building?

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